After a few plays I've got to write a review of this remarkable game!
Serenissima, as much as any game I've ever played, rewards well-timed combat and trade dealing. Each time I play it I learn two or three new strategies that I should implement in my game play.
What's great about this game is that it does not favor combat, nor does it penalize you for letting your pirate out. Balancing combat and trade is the best way to victory, but TIMING IS EVERYTHING.
I've begun to see the value in determining turn order, so the initial bidding phase can be esssential. There's so much to this game, but it's not too complicated to make it feel like work.
Right now I can't think of a game I prefer over Serenissima. The mechanics are smooth and give you lots of cool options on each turn. There is a ton of interaction, but not lots of frustrating down time. And the game board is the most beautiful, or bellissima, that I've ever seen. And, to me, the art is part of the game.